TG4 Irish Traditional Musician of the Year 2001
After Chris and Máire's wonderful trip to the US in the autumn and their third Celtic Christmas Strings tour of the UK in December, they're currently recording a new CD together...
Watch Máire's live TV performance with Anne-Marie O'Farrell and Cormac de Barra on Gradam Ceoil TG4, Sun 21 Feb, 2016
Co-produced, recorded and mixed by Chris Newman, the new CD has already received a some great reviews in The Irish Times * * * *, The Daily Telegraph * * * *, The Herald Scotland, The Living Tradition, Le Canard Folk (Belgium), Songlines * * * *, Trad Magazine (France) * * * *, the Boston Irish Reporter (USA) Fatea , Bright Young Folk and FolkWords. Here they are:
"At the end of this meeting of arguably Irish music’s foremost family group there’s a suite giving a musical representation of their home town, Bandon in West Cork’s history. It could just as well be a depiction of the Casey Sisters themselves, having grown up as the only traditional music players in town, returning to show the mastery that’s given them global reputations. Thumbing of noses doesn’t sit with the warmth and intimacy that permeates Sibling Revelry, though. This is high-end music-making, virtuosic yet presented in a way that puts the music first, the arrangements geared towards clear melodicism and rich, flowing, soulful exprzession. Máire (harp, piano, keyboard), Nollaig (fiddle, viola, whistle) and Mairéad (fiddle, whistle, flute) complement each other brilliantly on beautiful airs and superbly measured tune sets and the latter pair’s singing – Nollaig’s slightly wary-sounding on The Bonnie Boy in Blue; Mairéad’s sweet and lovely on A Dhroimeann Donn Dílis – emphasises the sheer depth of feeling they have for the Irish tradition."
"Intimacy and intuition are at the heart of this radiant collection.
Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Nollaig Casey and Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh are already highly regarded, but together, the sum of their parts reveals a generosity of spirit, a shared delight in the tunes and an appetite for forensic musical excavations.
Máire’s harp is at its subtle best on O’Carolan’s Katherine O’More, its sotto voce conversation with the fiddle giving full voice to the tune’s delicacies.
The Bandon- bridge Suite, composed by the sisters, is a playful, meditative and sweeping reflection on a part of the country seldom referenced in the traditional music canon.
Máire’s vocals bring a rich dimension and the unveiling of Connamara, a previously unpublished tune from the Bunting collection, is a further treat."
"This has to be my favourite album title of the year. Sibling Revelry, the debut album from the distinguished Casey-Ní Chathasaigh sisters, is an album of first-class musicianship. Singer and fiddle-player Nollaig Casey (once of Planxty and Coolfin) plays beautifully on the haunting Lament for General Monroe. Máire Ní Chathasaigh shows throughout why she is hailed as one of the world's best harp players. Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh has a sweet voice as well as a fine talent on the fiddle. They are joined on three tracks by Arty McGlynn on acoustic guitar. This is a wonderfully atmospheric album, never more so than on Connamara, a previously unpublished composition by Edward Bunting (1773–1843), which was made available by Belfast's Queen's University library." * * * *
Review by Martin Chilton. Now in his list of best folk albums of 2015!
"There are times when it seems like certain families got more than their fair share of musical genes, when a whole load of them can display talent of the highest order. So it is for the three sisters Nollaig Casey (vocals, fiddle, viola, tin whistle), Máire Ní Chathasaigh (Irish harp, piano, keyboards) and Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh (vocals, fiddle, tin whistle, low flute). All three are known for their outstanding work in their respective interpretations of Irish music and song, but this is their first recording as a band of sisters, accompanied by Arty McGlynn on guitar and Chris Newman on bass.
Sibling Revelry might best be described as effortless - it doesn’t shout about its greatness with faster-than-light playing or painstakingly crafted sound, and that’s part of the attraction. Instead, the arrangements are stripped back and organic and the quality rests on the pure skill and elegance of the playing.
The album opens with a stomping hornpipe named after a ruined castle in the sisters’ home town of Bandon, then moves on to a Turlough O’Carolan tune (Katherine O’more). Reflective, lilting pieces such as this seems to be where the sisters are most at home; later they play Connamara, a previously unpublished tune by Edward Bunting. The instrumentation here is superb, the strings particularly providing a rich, full accompaniment without sounding too orchestral.
Among the most striking pieces is Lament for General Monroe. Solo fiddle done well is always a treat, but it’s rare to hear playing that seems to bypass the instrument and come straight from the musician’s soul. It’s flawless and totally captivating.
Dance tunes aplenty space out the slower tunes, lifted by sparkling accompaniment from the harp and occasionally joined by guitar. The Bandonbridge Hornpipe, composed and played by Mairéad, stands out particularly with its driving melody and has a more danceable, down-to-earth sound than many of the others on the album.
Bonnie Boy in Blue, one of the three songs on the album, is also a standout track, demanding attention with strong, immediate vocals and a lilting tune. The other songs are a little more quiet and cautious, although this works well with their ethereal sound.
The sisters’ compositions are of as high a standard as their selection of traditional material - perhaps best shown in the final six tracks, The Bandonbridge Suite. Composed as a musical representation of the town of Bandon, the suite begins contemplatively, picks up pace with The Earl of Cork’s Allemand - a complex and technically intriguing tune - and finishes with a reel with all three of the sisters and their guest guitarist Arty McGlynn joining in.
A collaboration of this standard doesn’t come along every day. It sounds good on paper; it sounds even better in practice, perhaps because aside from the sisters’ deserved renown, they are ultimately drawing from their closeness to the tradition and to each other.
"Now who had the brainwave to bring together these three musical sisters for an album of truly joyous music-making? … You’ll know the ladies individually, of course, as front-runners in their respective fields of musical endeavour: Nollaig Casey as fiddler and singer (she also plays viola and tin-whistle), Máire Ní Chathasaigh as harpist extraordinaire (also piano and keyboard player), and Máiread Ní Chathasaigh as singer and fiddler (who also plays tin-whistle and low flute). Unbelievably, the deliciously-titled Sibling Revelry is the sisters’ first recording together (mind you, they’ve all had busy and fruitful individual careers), and yet the teaming here reveals a further inspired level of musicianship that’s beyond the intuitive. They excel on their respective instruments, sure, but they also possess an innate grasp of internal dynamics (whereby felicities of balance are keenly observed) and an uncanny ability to listen to each other and respond in kind, rejoicing in spontaneity of expression.
The material chosen for this album is thoughtfully and impeccably arranged, and ideally sequenced for optimum listening pleasure. It comprises mainly instrumental items, with just three songs carefully interleaved; of these, two are sung by Mairéad and one by Nollaig, and both singers display both a constant purity of tone and an unassumingly accomplished clarity of diction. The instrumental repertoire is an enterprising selection of traditional tunes, largely from manuscript collections, with one by O’Carolan and one by Máire herself, while the ten-minute closing track, the six-part Bandonbridge Suite, has individual sections composed by individual sisters. Good use is made of the possibilities of both arrangement and studio facilities for imaginative presentation; sometimes, Nollaig doubles her fiddle parts or else creates a mini-string-section by adding the darker timbre of viola to the mix, while the colours of tin-whistle and low flute add further variety to five of the selections and Máire’s harpistry is as skilled and scintillating as ever. Arty McGlynn’s guitar accompanies deftly on three tracks, including the final movement of the Suite, and Chris Newman plays bass on one of the songs. Even so, one of the album’s standout tracks is Nollaig’s pindrop solo performance on her adaptation of Lament For General Monroe.
The entire album represents a glorious and wholly delectable celebration of expertise in sibling musicianship of the highest order, and proves a life-affirming experience, a joy from start to finish."
"The intriguingly titled ‘Sibling Revelry’, the debut album from the class act that is The Casey Sisters, exudes the highest levels of talented musicianship and without doubt manifest skill. The word ‘expressive’ could easily sum up this album as the sisters pour so much of themselves into the music it talks to the listener on so many levels. The lightest of airs rub shoulders with ‘soul-touching’ songs and ‘step-inducing’ dance tunes to conjure an experience that will simply sweep you away into its enveloping embrace.
From the first moments, with the entrancing energy of ‘The Humours Of Castlebernard/ From Shore To Shore’ through the soft gentleness of ‘Katherine O’More’ to the haunting ‘A Dhroimeann Donn Dílis’ this album will hold you rapt. Were it possible to pick favourites from this album because the whole is so good and everyone will find their own preferences, then for me the dramatic ‘Lament For General Monroe’, their wholly impressive take on ‘Dark Lochnagar’ and impressive expanse of the specially composed, six-part ‘The Bandonbridge Suite’ are the ones that I lean towards the most."
A programme about the three sisters - an extended interview with Ellen Cranitch - was broadcast on "Grace Notes" on RTÉ Lyric FM on Thursday October 8 and is now available to listen to on the RTÉ Player click here and then choose "Thursday 8th October" from the list on the right-hand side of the page.
Further nice reviews are shortly to be published (we'll post them here as soon as we can scan them!) The album has already been played on a number of BBC radio stations (including BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, where it is "Caithreim Ciúil"s Album of the Week this week), several NPR stations in the USA (including WGBH, KRVS, KUAR), on stations in Germany, France and Italy and on RTÉ Lyric FM, Raidio na Gaeltachta, Clare FM, Shannonside Radio, Midwest Radio, Tipp FM and LMFM - Máire was interviewed on LMFM about the album.
Just prior to the Italian trip, Máire had spent a fortnight teaching and performing at the 30th International Festival for Irish Harp at An Grianán, Termonfechin, Co. Louth (where she also performed at the gala concert with The Heartstring Quartet) and Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare.
The Irish events were preceded by a tour of Denmark with Chris, Máire's sister, fiddle-player and singer Nollaig Casey and guitarist Arty McGlynn (as The Heartstring Quartet), during which they performed at Halkaer Festival. Máire and Chris had spent April - May touring as a duo on the East Coast of the USA. Less than two weeks before the start of that tour at the Celtic Festival of Southern Maryland, they had returned from a seven-week quartet tour of Australia in February - April which included appearances at Perth International Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Blue Mountains Music Festival, the National Folk Festival, Cobargo Folk Festival and Deloraine StringFest (see here for details) - and in that period managed to fit in duo concerts at the Edinburgh Harp Festival, Coquetdale Music Trust and Lichfield Arts Centre.
Here's a link to an interview with Máire in The Herald Scotland on 8 April, 2015, prior to the Edinburgh Harp Festival performance.
The quartet's second album, Heartstring Sessions 2, was recorded in January and manufactured in time for the Australian tour! The CD will be released in Europe or the US soon - we'll keep you posted.
Máire and Chris had a wonderful time on their 21-date Celtic Christmas Strings tour of the UK in November / December (flyer on the right) - eight of the concerts were sold out, which was very gratifying, and the whole experience was fantastically good fun! They've posted photos taken on the tour, together with photos of their autumn trips to Italy and Sweden, on their Facebook Page.
Máire and her two fiddle-playing and singing sisters Nollaig and Mairéad performed and taught at the 2nd Harp Weekend at Bandon Walled Town Festival, held in their home town of Bandon, Co. Cork on August 30 - 31. Their concert on August 30th (to a capacity audience in St Peter's Church) included the première of their specially-composed Bandonbridge Suite - a musical representation of the history of the town - and their new CD will be released soon. Here's a video clip of Máire and Nollaig playing together.
The new CD!!!
The flyer for Máire and Chris's Christmas 2014 tour.